tv Melania Trump Presents Women of Courage Awards at State Department CSPAN March 31, 2017 12:11pm-1:01pm EDT
sunday night on "q&a." >> it was everywhere in decline and the nationalists were rising up. the big question the u.s. face was should it support britain against the rising nationalists or create a new order by mediating between the nationalists and the british? >> michael the rent on his book "mike's gamble." it was about the 1956 suez crisis and its aftermath. >> what is trying to prevent is the soviet union coming in aligning with the nationalists, undermining the british, and taking the oil in the middle east. it was 100% of european oil that came from the middle east. we won to make sure that we had friendly arab regimes that if not were aligned with the united states but at least keep the soviet union out. that's the goal. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern
on c-span's "q&a." >> first lady melania trump wednesday spoke at the 2017 international women of courage awards ceremony at the state department. after her remarks, we hear from two of the winners, a human rights activist from botswana and a woman who was the victim of an acciden acid attack. >> ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the first lady of the united states, melania trump, acting under secretary of state, tom shannon, and the 2017 international women of courage award recipients. [applause]
celebration and grateful for your commitment and that of the president to the wellbeing and success of women and girls across the globe. please join me again in welcoming the first lady. [applause] i would also like to welcome the members of the diplomatic corps who are with us here today and, of course, the women joining us on this stage, the 2017 international women of courage. thank you very much. [applause] the secretary of state's award for international women of courage is part of our celebration of women's history month and international women's day.
the secretary wanted to be here to present these awards himself. regrettably, he is on his way to ankara and brussels but extends his heartfelt congratulations to these honorees. since 2007, this award has honored women from around the world who have exhibited exceptional courage and leadership, who have drawn strength from adversity to help transform their societies. these women have mobilized public sentiment and their governments to expose and address injustice, speak against corruption, prevent violent extremism, and stand up for the rule of law and peace, and with little more than their voices and sheer determination. we are honored to recognize this incredible group. shortly, you will hear each woman's story. they are an inspiring reminder of how individuals can make a difference. taken together, they provide a powerful message of courage and leadership.
as we celebrate the accomplishments of these women, we also provide them with a platform for telling their stories. after this celebration, they will participate in a state department sponsored exchange program to engage with american audiences around our country, contributing to the tradition of people-to-people diplomacy. the united states is proud to honor these leaders as part of our commitment to advance the status of women and girls around the world. i want to take a moment to thank my colleagues in the secretary's office of global women's issues for the work they do to ensure that gender equality and women's empowerment are integrated into our foreign policy. i also want to recognize the bureau of educational and cultural affairs whose programs like the international visitor's leadership program on which these women are about to embark, are an important element of our diplomacy. the work of our colleagues here
at the state department embodies a commitment that comes from the very top of our administration. as secretary tillerson has said, there is study after study to confirm that when you empower women in these developing parts of the world, you change the future of the country because you change the cycle within the families. women's empowerment is not just a moral imperative, it is a strategic investment in our collective security. in short, when women do better, countries do better. women's security is a matter of international security. without it, we all lose. president trump and his administration are committed to expanding opportunities for women and girls domestically and across the globe. on february 13, president trump and canadian prime minister trudeau launched the united states-canada council for the advancement of women entrepreneurs and business leaders.
on february 28, president trump signed two bills into law. first, the inspiring the next space pioneers and innovators and explorers act and second, the promoting women and entrepreneurship act, both of which encourage women to pursue careers in engineering, science , and mathematics and to provide support for women's entrepreneurial programs through the national science foundation, so it gives me great pleasure to introduce someone who has played a central role in that effort. as a philanthropist and a humanitarian, the first lady has been a driving force behind the effort to promote women and children in our society. mrs. trump has been an honorary chairwoman for the boys club of new york for five consecutive years, and in 2005, was awarded the title of goodwill ambassador by the american red cross. she helped launch national child abuse prevention month in april 2008 and has been a champion for the american heart association. her deep concern for issues
affecting women and children continue as she has focused as first lady on the challenge of cyber bullying among our youth. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the first lady of the united states, mrs. melania trump. [applause] mrs. trump: thank you, thank you. ambassador shannon, dignitaries, esteemed guests, ladies and gentlemen. i'm deeply humbled to be here today to honor these 12 remarkable and inspirational women, who have given so much for so many, regardless of the unimaginable threat to their own personal safety.
each one of these heroic women has an extraordinary story of courage, which must inspire each of us to also achieve more than we have ever imagined possible. their lives remind us of the boundless capacity of the human spirit when guided by moral clarity and desire to do good. these honorees on the stage with me have fought for their rights and for the rights of others. each battle forces such as government, the courts, gender bias, terrorism, war and corruption, and were willing, in each moment, to face harsh penalties, including imprisonment and death. as they continue to persevere against unimaginable odds, these
women are extraordinary examples of reaching within to find the courage that lies inside us all to change the world. while learning the stories of these 12 honorees, i would like to ask each of us to take this moment and try to imagine what it would be like to experience the trying obstacles, domestic abuse, gender biased violence, or government oppression that some of these women have faced. let us try to envision ourselves in their place struggling against gender bias and discriminatory laws which serve to protect the predators of unthinkable crimes while
punishing their victims should they even dare to speak out. ask yourself if you would have the fortitude of spirit, the courage of your convictions, and the enormous inner strength required to stand up and fight against such overwhelming odds. amazingly, each of our honorees has courageously answered yes to those questions. for it is their strength and the strength of others like them which will unite a global battle against inhumanity. together with the international community, the united states must send a clear message that we are watching. it is therefore our duty to continue to shine the light on each miraculous victory achieved
by women all capable of truly leading the change to fight for those that cannot fight for themselves. theirs are the stories of human greatness that will continue to inspire and therefore must be told far and wide. these honorees who have fought on the front lines against injustice are true heroes. their stories of individual bravery remind us that there is always hope whenever the human spirit is brought to bear in the service of others and that healing and personal empowerment are often born from such. i believe bravery is the ability
to live one's life refusing to be discouraged and instead choosing a life of purpose. only when we do this are we able to surpass what we previously believed to be possible. each of these 12 women represents a life of enormous courage, to save a child, to help a family, to make a neighborhood or school safe, or to boldly speak out against evil by refusing to back down no matter the personal cost. to the young people here today, i ask you to allow the examples of these heroic women to inspire you in your own lives and to remind yourself that you, too, are capable of greatness.
i urge you to -- i urge you to not be afraid to fail. a failure will never have the power to define you as long as you learn from it. and realize that your first step will always involve taking a leap of faith, believing in yourself while choosing to replace fear with hope. let these brave women serve as daily inspiration as it is now up to each of you to remain vigilant against injustice in all its many forms. as you go forward, remember, their journeys to push ahead and strive to bring about a better community, a better country, and a better world in an ongoing fight for right over might. we must continue once again to shine the light on the
horrendous atrocities taking place in neighborhoods around the corner and around the globe, where innocent families are crying out to live in safety. we must continue to fight injustice in all its forms, in whatever scale or shape it takes in our lives. together, we must declare that the era of allowing the brutality against women and children is over, while affirming that the time for empowering women around the world is now. for wherever women are diminished, the entire world is diminished with them. however, wherever women are empowered, towns and villages, schools and economies are empowered and together we are all made stronger with them.
we must begin now to challenge old fears, fight for justice and stand up against evil and injustice wherever it may be. as leaders of our shared global community, we must continue to work towards gender empowerment and respect for people from all backgrounds and ethnicity, remembering always that we are all ultimately members of one race, the human race. each one of us is uniquely gifted. we must continue with american values as we join with the international community to make our world safer through acts of collaborative and individual bravery. thank you, honorees, for your
courage, and thank you, ambassador shannon, for your support. god bless you and god bless this great nation. thank you. [applause] ambassador shannon: thank you very much for your inspiring words, and thank you for honoring us with your presence here today. as the first lady noted, courage takes many forms. this year, we're pleased to recognize 13 extraordinary women who are demonstrating courage in four pivotal areas -- exposing
and opposing gender-based violence, standing up to terrorists, combating corruption, promoting justice and human rights for all. 12 of them are here today. we will call each one here to the podium next to the first lady to receive her award and then have an opportunity to hear from some of the awardees. the first awardee is sharmin aktar of bangladesh. sharmin defied intense family pressure to marry a man decades older when she was just 15. being a lawthere in bangladesh that prohibited early enforced marriage. holding her ground and filing charges against her own family, sharmin gained the support of a newspaper journalist who helped to expose the case and she won the right to continue her
education. in standing up for her rights, she sets a precedent for other girls and their families to invest in their girls and envision a new future of opportunity for them. sharmin is being honored for her exceptional courage and perseverance to break the silence around early and forced marriage and for being a role model for other girls who suffer needlessly from this harmful practice. sharmin? [applause] ambassador shannon: our next awardee is alette contreras batista of peru.
a survivor of abuse and violence, her attack by a well -connected city councilman was splashed across social media and television. she turned her tragedy into a cause for advocacy. when her abuser was sentenced to a token one-year token sentence, she spoke out and dedicated herself to working with other victims of violence which eventually led to her launching a grassroots movement called "not one woman less" to raise awareness of gender-based violence. alette is being honored for her fearless activism on behalf of survivors of gender-based violence and for standing up to demand that the government and judiciary hold perpetrators to account. thank you. [applause]
ambassador shannon: our next honoree is malaboho molewa from botswana. a beautiful country. a former national basketball player who had her whole life ahead of her, she was brutally assaulted at the hand of an ex-boyfriend, escaped death and now uses a wheelchair due to the injuries she endured. she has dedicated her life to teaching other girls to fight harmful gender stereotypes and domestic abuse. she is being honored for her tenacity, strength, and resilience to help other women and girls overcome the scourge of domestic violence, especially
those who have become disabled as a result of such abuse. [applause] ambassador shannon: our next honoree is natalia ponce de leon from columbia -- colombia. in surviving a sulfuric acid attack from a stalker, she underwent multiple surgeries. she calls her recovery a rebirth which led her to start her own foundation to help other acid attack survivors. as a result of her advocacy, the colombian congress passed the natalia ponce de leon law in
january 2016. natalia is honored for her relentless pursuit of justice against acid attacks and fighting for the promotion of a law to hold perpetrators to account. natalia? [applause] ambassador shannon: our next honoree is janot elgazy from iraq. after surviving domestic abuse, her tribal family threatened her life. she now dedicates her life to protecting other women from violence.
she has furthered the organization of women's freedom in iraq's cause by providing training and legal services for women, including those who have suffered brutality at the hands of isis. she is being honored for self was the working on behalf of women and survivors of abuse, courageously telling her story at great risk to her personal safety and providing shelter, education, and opportunities for women to reclaim their lives from the threat of violence and extremism. [applause]
ambassador shannon: our next honoree is major ushatu. soldier, mother, and united nations peacekeeper. she exemplifies what it means for a woman to serve on the front lines of conflict. she has not only helped people deal with the trauma caused by conflict and the threat of violent extremism, including boko haram, she also understands the deep need for social services to pave the way to recovery for families affected by war and conflict. she is being honored for her steadfast devotion to healing those wounded by conflict and terrorism, for demanding social services for those left to suffer the consequences of war in order to prevent further violent extremism. major? [applause]
ambassador shannon: our next honoree is veronica simoygan from papua, new guinea, advocate for women and girls in papua new guinea, she lives and works in a country where 2/3 of women and girls have been physically and sexually abused due to their gender. despite facing death threats for her work with survivors, veronica has devoted herself to helping others and building relationships with local law enforcement and men and boys to overturn the cultural norm that
deprive women and girls of of their status and basic rights. veronica is being honored for her relentless dedication to protecting victims of violence and vulnerable women and children and for the pursuit of supportive partners in men and boys to make her country a violence-free society. veronica. [applause] ambassador shannon: our next honoree is rebecca cabugu of the democratic republic of congo. subjected to oppression, arrests
, and months in jail for her political activism and speaking her mind, rebecca was, at age 22, dubbed one of the youngest prisoners of conscience in the world. rebecca played a key role in a series of peaceful and non-violent demonstrations demanding the congolese government hold credible elections in 2016 as required by the congolese constitution. upon her release in 2016, she emerged as a voice demanding democratic reform and social change. rebecca is being honored for her visionary leadership, commitment to ushering in positive change through nonviolence, and for standing up to improve the lives of the disadvantaged in her country. rebecca? [applause]
ambassador shannon: our next honoree is sandra eknelegoda from sri lanka. when her husband, well-known political cartoonist and journalist, disappeared in january 2010, she resolved to seek the truth about his fate. she appeared in court more than 80 times in the face of obstructionist judges and authorities. she has become a symbol for the many thousands of persons who have suffered the loss of disappeared relatives over the course of the 27-year civil war and earlier insurrections. she is being honored for her relentless pursuit of the truth about those who have disappeared
during conflict, holding the government accountable and bringing hope to others suffering a similar fate. [applause] our nextr shannon: honoree is sadat uzkahn of turkey. as an elementary school teacher, sadat took the rare and bold step of exposing the sexual abuse of children by the principal of a small village school. even after suffering a debilitating car accident that left her incapacitated for
months, she refused to back down from her claims, despite pressure from the authorities and threats by other teachers. sadat is being honored for her unwavering determination to uncover generations of sexual abuse of school children, particularly girls, and for her integrity in pursuing justice in the face of government pressure and apathy. sadat. [applause] our nextr shannon: honoree is sister caroline tahan of syria. sister caroline, a roman catholic nun working in damascus, is being recognized
for her outreach and service to the refugee community, internally displaced persons and children, putting her own life at risk, sister caroline has become a beacon of hope to both muslims and christians alike. in addition to running a nursery school and providing a safe environment for traumatized children, she also runs a tailoring workshop to provide job skills to vulnerable displaced women. sister caroline is being honored for her perseverance in serving those affected by the syrian conflict and willingness to safeguard and empower the most vulnerable, including children, refugees, and displaced women. sister caroline? [applause]
ambassador shannon: our next honoree is faddia tabbet of yemen. a child protection officer and reporter on human rights violations in southern yemen during the recent conflicts, faddia risked her life to protect the region's children from al qaeda and houthi militia. her acts of courage persuaded young boys from joining terrorist groups and militias. she exposed the branch as a recruiter of child soldiers as well as documented human rights violations by other armed groups. she is honored for putting her own life at risk to protect children from being recruited by terrorist groups and militias
and her bravery in exposing human rights violations and crimes committed by various armed groups. faddia. [applause] ambassador shannon: finally, we honor one woman who was not able to be here today. nguyen gnoc nguyen of vietnam, an outspoken blogger and outspoken critic and online activist, nguyen has been held incommunicado at a detention center since october after
exposing a toxic waste dump, one of the worst environmental disasters in vietnam's history. while she cannot join her fellow women of courage at this ceremony, we admire her for refusing to be silenced and her defense of freedom of expression. nguyen is being honored for her resoluteness to expose injustices and corruption and using her voice to stand up for the protection of people's rights and freedoms. [applause] now, it isshannon: my pleasure and my honor to introduce two of our
international women of courage who will give remarks on behalf of the group. may i bring to the podium malabohbo of botswana and natalia ponce de leon of colombia. [applause] >> first lady, melania trump, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. today for me marks the pinnacle of every woman's success story. i am greatly honored to speak on behalf of the phenomenal ladies. oftentimes we work selflessly
with sacrifice so others can learn from us. we allow ourselves to be brave despite the radical, the judgments, and the societal pressures. this moment is for everyone who has supported me, most importantly, my family and my friends. [applause] >> and for the courageous women who have stopped at nothing to effect change. as a gender-based violence survivor and also a woman living with a disability, the result of a brutal attack, i take pride in knowing that i didn't lose my strength and i continued to use my story to inspire other women
and to learn from me and to partake in changing, in helping change the lives of others who may be going through a situation in their lives and not knowing how to exit. allow me please to thank the organizers of this event for recognizing women who have made an impacting impression and continue to make a contribution in the societies in helping shape the lives of other women and helping change the brutal perceptions of the world. thank you. [applause]
>> hello, everyone. i never would have dreamed i would have the honor to be speaking to you today, let alone i would not have imagined that in order to be here today, i would first have to go through a nightmare and later a rebirth. almost three years ago, i was at the my mom's house and i received a call. my ex-boyfriend left me something for me at the door. i did not pay much attention and when i went to take out the garbage, i was surprised by a man in a hood who attacked me with a liter of sulfuric acid. i felt my skin burning. my clothes torn apart by the chemical and i started losing my sight. by the time i arrive at the hospital, 37% of my body was burned and my entire face. my doctors were not sure what percentage of my internal body
was affected. i could be blind or have multiple trauma for a lifetime. it was a time of doubt and uncertainty. today, i thank my doctor for being my guardian angel and for everything he taught me. during my recovery, i understood that i had two options. the easy way, i could lie in bed filling myself up with hate and anger, or the hard way is standing strong and making all these tragedies something greater. and so i did. two days ago, it was three years since the day of the attack. i am alive on this planet and i have started a different one. process, after a long
on march 27 of march, i died and i was reborn from the ashes. amazingly, i started a better life, a life with a mission, a life dedicated to a bigger purpose. my attack was not the only one , and i started to contact with other victims of acid attacks. talking to other victims was a relief and pain at the same time. it was reliving again what happened to me. it required a lot of strength. i would not have accomplished it, what i did in three years, without strength. i was mentally strong, effort, to understand that pain and suffering was something transcendent. courage is just a word with strength to accomplish our goals, small or big. that is subjective. my biggest goal at the beginning
was getting out of bed, like everyone else. today, my biggest goal is to create a burn unit for hospitals in colombia. the most powerful tool we have is our mind and strength. it gives us opportunity to reach higher. none of our goals would have been accomplished without constancy. for me, constancy is a quality to remind, invaluable regardless of circumstances. it requires keeping yourself in mind along the way. constancy through surgeries, no matter how painful they were, and the constant use of a mask to allow my skin to get back to where it was supposed to be. i am not a perfect human being. honestly, none of us are.
but the wonderfulness of being a human being lies in the capacity for resilience and moving forward. in order to do that, it is important to leave the past behind. forgiveness is what made me stand up and accept myself, accept my fate and move forward. i forgive whoever has wronged me. i forgive how i wronged myself. that builds me up and give me -- forgiveness and belief is the fuel to move forward. when you move forward, you know where you are heading but you don't know where you will end up. i created a foundation to help victims of attacks like mine. later, colombia's government passed a law with tough sentences for acid attacks. today, i work hard to give my
country the capacity to respond to these attacks, help survivors , and create more burn units in colombia. what will happen next, i don't know. but i trust that with the strength, constancy and forgiveness, we will end this horror. my message for you today is to take those three words, make them yours. use them and any other you will be willing to use them. the other will not affect the product because the outcome will be a human being that will use what they have to help others to make our society better. as a woman, i feel moved by survivors of these attacks. also, i feel moved to see that as women, we have developed our sense of resilience to its maximum. in so many fields, women help
their communities improve their life standards. it is our task to honor what others have completed for us, to acknowledge the privileged position we are in. we live now in a world with rights for everyone because of others having cleared this path for us with their own sweat. we have nothing left than to clear the future path, to have the courage that no matter how tough situation are, we can reach more. this is not only my fight. it's everyone's fight because tomorrow this could be your son's story, your daughter's story, or your own story. it is our task to keep the future bright. to all my fellows today here, i
salute you for your resilience and your courage. thank you so much. [applause] >> two incredible statements by two incredible women. there's really nothing left to say. except to thank all of you for your presence here today. we have a stand-up crowd. this shows how important this issue is here in washington,
here in the united states, and to this administration, and to the american people. so we're very grateful for your presence here today. once again, we are grateful for the presence of the first lady. ma'am, again, you have honored us. thank you. [applause] ambassador shannon: and to the 2017 international women of courage awardees, thank you all for what you have done and all that you will continue to do. thank you for your bravery and your commitment. we honor you and we honor your work. bravo. [applause] ambassador shannon: we had an opportunity to take a photo with these incredible women but we
did not have an opportunity to take a photo with them holding their awards. so if you don't mind, if i could just ask you to hold tight for a moment as we gather them here and take a photograph with the first lady. but again, thank you all very much for being here today. [applause] [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, this concludes the 2017 international women of courage awards. please stay seated as the awardees exit the stage. thank you.